Port in the Winter

A snowstorm? Or just cold? Port is perfect!

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

20 January 2017

So far, Washington D.C. has not seen excessively cold weather. But I have seen photos and videos from colleagues and friends in Strasbourg, France, with plenty of snowfall. And more than likely, Washington D.C. should see some snow.

Port is great any time of year, but particularly pleasing in the winter. Whether an opulent and intense vintage port or a 10-year-old Tawny, Port can warm your spirits in the winter.

For more details on the various types of Port, I highly recommend this page.

With that in mind, here some notes from a great tasting late last year in Lisbon, on Saturday morning 26 November 2016, at the Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho.

Thanks to Adegga Wine Market‘s André Cid Proença and André Ribeirinho for the invitation to taste. I have had great pleasure to meet both before in various wine venues as members of the #winelover community.

The evening before at Lisbon’s Time Out Market eatery, I had met with Ribeirinho – who will be writing about Porto wines in the next edition of Hugh Johnson’s wine guide (bravo André, see video below from the tasting) – and Norwegian wine expert and #winelover pal Roger Kolbu.

Both Kolbu and Norwegian wine critic Christer Byklum, whom I often see in Bordeaux, were in Portugal to take part in many visits and tastings, so it was serendipitous that my work at the Council of Europe included a conference in Lisbon the day before, because I was able to join all four wine friends at the Lisbon Wine Institute for this Saturday morning tasting.

At work, from left to right: André Ribeirinho, Christer Byklum and Roger Kolbu

The institute was a gorgeous venue, inside and out, with a cool entrance and an expansive tasting room and impeccable service.

The tasting, single blind, provided a fascinating view of a variety of port wines – tawny and ruby, vintage and LBV among others – and some surprises, too.

I missed the first of three rounds, which was mainly entry level wines like Sandeman White Port.

The guys had started at 8 am that morning, because Christer and Roger had an early plane to catch, which was not my case. So I tasted the 2nd and 3rd rounds, each with two flights and my notes below. As usual, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.

Keeping in focus: Adegga Wine Market‘s André Cid Proença at the tasting

Flight One

  • NV Sandeman Porto 10 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    While the wine showed much pleasing richness, it came across as just a bit too “pasty” for my tastes. So I am being rather neutral in my approach to this, as some drinkers would score higher! Tasted earlier in this flight, the Sandeman Old Tawny Porto was more pleasing to me, with more evident grip… (87 pts.)
  • NV Quinta Do Infantado Porto 10 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Something faulty here, as if a bit too much sulfur. Note reserved. NR (flawed)
  • NV Ferreira Porto Dona Antonia Reserva Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Lovely wine! Juicy fruit, delectable aromas, with a fairly rich and deep palate. Seek this one out. (89 pts.)
  • NV Quinta do Vallado Porto 10 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Another lovely wine but more serious, more structured, robust with a certain espresso coffee bean aspect. As the French would say, corsé. And probably a great deal too. Seek this one out. (90 pts.)

Unveiled: from the first flight

  • NV Vinhos Oscar Quevedo Porto 10 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Getting better! This is an elegant, somewhat high-toned Tawny, and its balance and refinement made me think of 20 years old. But no, just 10. Wow, this is an excellent producer! (92 pts.)

Flight 2

  • NV Quinta do Vallado Porto 20 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Much refinement and elegance. There is a salty refreshing aspect, with opulence on the mid palate and a long refined finish. Bravo! (92+ pts.)
  • NV Baronesa de Vilar Porto 20 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Slighter richer than the preceding wine, but also a bit of too evident heat/fire on the finish. I prefer the focus and elegance of the preceding wine. (89 pts.)
  • NV Ramos Pinto Porto 10 Year Old Tawny Quinta de Ervamoira – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    The heat and fire overbear me a bit, as I keep coming back to the first wine in this flight. Still, an audacious tawny to be sure! (88 pts.)
  • NV Sandeman Porto 20 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Lovely fruit, round, opulent, warm (not hot) finish, and yes with fire but such contours to this one… Approaches the quality of the first wine in the series. (91 pts.)

Unveiled: from the second flight

  • NV Dalva Porto Tawny 20 Year Old – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    More a smooth and elegant style, approaching the level of quality of wine #1. So this and wine #1 are my favorites overall in this flight, so far. (92 pts.)
  • NV Ramos Pinto Porto 20 Year Old Tawny Quinta do Bom Retiro – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Heavier, more baritone and serious. Tannic and heady. Great wine indeed! (92 pts.)
  • NV Sandeman Porto 30 Year Old Tawny – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Another excellent port, with density and refinement. (92+ pts.)

Flight 3 

  • NV Vinhos Oscar Quevedo Porto 30 year old White Port – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Made from grapes as old as the 1920. Smooth and elegant and lovely – the 30 year old we had had the night before. Just a lovely drink, perfect with grilled octopus that we had enjoyed the evening before at Time Out Lisbon. And just amazing to see the quality from old white Port. (92+ pts.)
  • 2011 Sandeman Porto Late Bottled Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Streamlined, tannic and smooth, very nice. (91 pts.)

    Amazing LBV

  • 2012 Vinhos Quevedo Porto Late Bottled Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    The surprise of the morning tastings! Pure jam, like fresh home-made marmalade of rich red and black fruits, opulent, with smoky yet tannic characteristics. A certain fire-like aspect on the finish, which is long. And experts preferred it to some of the veritable vintage ports tasted blind. Get to wine-searcher.com now. (94 pts.)
  • 2012 Baronesa de Vilar Porto Late Bottled Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    More tannic and somewhat closed in by comparison, but a serious wine. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Ferreira Quinta do Seixo Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Seriously gorgeous nose, perfumed! Tannic on the palate and robust and long on the finish. More impressive than than the LBV Quevedo if not as surprisingly good. (93 pts.)
  • 2011 Herdade do Esporão Porto Vintage Quinta dos Murças – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Clean, fruit-driven and nuanced. Does not wow me like the LBV Quevedo. (90 pts.)

Blind tasting, before being revealed.

Flight 4 

  • 2014 Ramos Pinto Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Somewhat austere and a touch off, a hint of cork. Faulty bottle. NR (flawed)
  • 1997 Ramos Pinto Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Cabbage like notes develop and get worse with time in glass. Another faulty bottle, alas. NR (flawed)

Christer Byklum assesses a questionable wine.

  • 2000 Henriques & Henriques Madeira Boal Single Harvest – Portugal, Madeira
    A literally tangy nose. Old Church bannister, salty and elegant, and reminds me of a light Cognac – to which Andre later said that Cognac reminds him of a light Madeira. Deservedly won gold at both Decanter and International Wine Challenge. A superb wine that I just wanted to drink – and after the tasting, I did! (93 pts.)

Excellent Madeira, too

  • NV Henriques & Henriques Madeira Terrantez 20 Years Old – Portugal, Madeira
    Sherry like notes, more “evidently Madeira” to me. I could have the Greek almond dessert made with unrefined butter and covered with powdered sugar (kourabiethes) with this one. Perhaps more body than the preceding Boal 2000 vintage, but I just prefer by a bit the preceding for superior elegance. (92 pts.)
  • 2011 Sandeman Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Impressive indeed! Perfumed and streamlined, and with richness and a long finish. Somewhat closed in, but that is normal considering its youthful age. (93 pts.)

What a pleasure to have been able to taste these wines.

Portugal has been really going places, too, for its dry reds and whites. Alas, many of them are not so readily promoted as the Port wines. For savvy consumers, these dry wines can be considered bargains. As for the Ports, it was great to (re)discover the quality of some of the LBV, which on a general level may constitute the most optimal QPRs for Ports.

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